Environmental Hazards

“Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation.” Genesis 12:1-2
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our hindrance in writing comes not from our lack of skill or confidence, but in the environment in which we work.
One day, I woke up and looked back at the direction my life had taken and it dawned on me that I had turned my back on my very first love: writing. Suddenly, the world shifted. The pieces of my life fell into place. Everything finally made sense. I once again had a purpose in life and a new destination to reach.
But if you’ve been pedaling on the sidewalks of New York all your life and realize that you need to lead a safari in Africa, you’d better trade that bicycle in for a jeep.
When I started writing again in full force, it seemed that I couldn’t just go to my room, turn on the computer, and hammer away like I could when I was younger. Something was blocking me. It was a debilitating mental block that seemed to be pinching shut the river between my mind and the page. I tried everything, anything to squeeze it out, but everything it produced just seemed forced and contrived. Pretty soon, I became so desperate to be fruitful that I began taking a spiral notebook with me to work, to the beach, to the supermarket, everywhere that gave me a chance to sit and write. In a matter of days, I had no less than half of the notebook filled with free-flowing thoughts.
That was it!
It wasn’t a diminished proficiency in writing that was stopping me. It was my environment. When I stepped outside my comfort zone and allowed myself to go wherever I needed to think, the floodgates opened and I could write freely again. However, the solution wasn’t as simple as taking a month-long road trip, renting office space, or building a studio somewhere in the art district. When your income is small and you still have to live with your parents, the world isn’t exactly your oyster. But I didn’t let that stop me.
If I couldn’t go to the ideal environment, I would bring the ideal environment to me.
The first thing I did was rearrange my room. I noticed that, as it was, the room was very easy to become disarrayed, so I studied my own habits and adjusted the room accordingly. My room now exists for two purposes. Sleeping and writing. Every element of the room points to this purpose, and whenever I walk inside, the message is very clear. “It’s time to work.”
But that wasn’t enough.
When one starts listening to the world long enough, one will become like the world and harbor a crippling defeatist attitude in his heart, and who is going to write when one feels that he cannot succeed in writing no matter what he does? The truth is: whenever you decide to become a writer, you’re not trying to become a success. You are a success. And if you are a success, you must live like one.
I started absorbing the printed word like a sponge. I read books, stories and newspapers. I collected books like children collect baseball cards. I took any and every opportunity to write and read. Not only did I kick-start a project, but also started blogging, writing letters, keeping a journal, writing down my dreams and taking studious notes in church. I even gave up television for a few weeks just to see how it would affect my productivity. I adopted habits that defined me, not by saying that I might be a writer some day, but I am a writer now. Suddenly, it wasn’t a strain and a burden to write, anymore. It came naturally once again because I not only changed my physical environment, but my mental and spiritual environment as well.
How about you? Is your environment stifling your writing life? Are you afraid of change?
Don’t be.
Change is not only good for the writer, but essential. Your writing life is like a plant. It’s a living thing that constantly grows inside of you. You can’t put it in a pot, water it once, and expect it to thrive. You have to nurture it and tend to its needs. If you don’t, you’ll stunt its growth… …or worse, it will shrivel up and die.
So, whenever you feel that your writing has stagnated and the contents of your creative juices have settled, shake it up a little. You’ll be glad you did.
I know I am.
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